You might have guessed it by now, but I am not a big fan of grains. It’s really hard to conclusively say that non-gluten grains like quinoa, rice, or buckwheat are “bad” because so many people eat them. So I base my decisions around grains on a few criteria. Firstly, what does the science say. Secondly, what are my personal experiences?
Are Humans Designed To Eat Grains?
Humans have been eating almost every other form of food other than grains for millions of years. Grains have only been a big part of the human diet for the past 10,000 years or so, which is nothing in terms of evolution. Grains became popular when the agricultural revolution occurred. The thing is, we still have the same DNA as our non-grain eating ancestors and our DNA hasn’t gone through any major shifts in the last 10,000 years that would make grains much more compatible with our bodies.
Vegetables, seafood, meats, fruits, nuts and seeds, tubers, algae and seaweed have been part of the human diet much longer than grains have. All of these foods are more nutritious than grains.
While we have an amazing ability to adapt, I don’t believe that 10,000 years was enough for everyone to adapt to eating grains. Certain cultures such as Asians might be less susceptible to the effects of grains like rice, but the truth is that we simply don’t need them. What we do need is to eat lots and lots of vegetables. Our paleolithic ancestors may have eaten lots of meat, which is very acidic, but they consumed copious amounts of vegetables to counterbalance that, and they almost never ate grains, which are also acidic. On top of that, they exercised for hours every single day, putting the higher protein content of the meats they ate to good use. Once we introduced grains into the diet, our net pH shifted more toward an acidic nature because grains are acidic. Having both meat and grains is what primarily caused this shift. If you’re just looking at it from an “acidic vs. alkaline” point of view, then you may be able to get away with eating grains as long as meat isn’t consumed. However, if you look at it from a health perspective, accounting for nutrient density, anti-nutrient profiles, digestibility and other factors, it seems that having meat in place of grains is better overall compared to the other way around.
My philosophy is that the further back in time we go when it comes to what we eat, the healthier we’ll be. Since meat was here before grains, and nearly all gut-healing plans suggest giving up grains, I would rather give up grains before meat. Add to that the fact that grains are have the lowest nutritional value out of every food group and it’s not difficult to understand that eliminating them from your diet can increase your health.
Does Giving Up Grains Give You Permission To Eat As Much Meat As Possible?
Might seem like a stupid question, but it needs to be addressed. Even though you’ll be reducing your acidic load by not eating that many grains, it’s super important to not become a meat-head. And you should definitely never consume conventional meat products. Eat only pasture-raised, grass-fed meat or wild meat products. The important thing is to eat more vegetables. Vegetables should make up the bulk of your diet. Vegetable juices,vegetable smoothies, salads, sautéed vegetables, roasted vegetables, pureed vegetables. Just eat more vegetables. And because we are so messed up and unhealthy and deficient in so many nutrients, we need to eat a ridiculous amount of vegetables to help reverse the damage that’s been done to our bodies. Most of the time that’s not even enough and supplements are necessary.
Why People With Acne Should Stop Eating Most Grains
Specifically for acne, the main reason to avoid grains is the blood sugar/insulin response. Whenever we eat grains, they raise blood sugar, release insulin from the pancreas and cause a subsequent release of IGF-1 and androgens. These hormones block pores and increase sebum production. It is absolutely crucial to have a low glycemic-load diet if you want to heal your skin. Check out the result of this Korean study.
“Subjects within the low glycemic group demonstrated significant clinical improvement in the number of both non-inflammatory and inflammatory acne lesions. Histopathological examination of skin samples revealed several characteristics, including reduced size of sebaceous glands, [and] decreased inflammation … in the low glycemic load group”
I put this particular study in here because this clinical trial was performed on Korean patients. The significance of this is because Asians tend to eat more rice, as it’s more prevalent in their culture. Yet, even when Korean patients followed a lower glycemic load diet (minimal to no grains) they all experienced drastic improvement in their acne.
Personally, I started by eliminating wheat. Then I eliminated rye and barley because they contain gluten. It was very, very hard for me to eliminate bread from my diet (even the sprouted whole-grain organic sourdough bread can cause blood sugar problems).
When I had major acne I used to be addicted to this snack called Pirate’s Booty made from puffed rice and corn. (Corn is a grain by the way). I’ve since learned that eating healthy really comes down to eating real foods that come in their whole form and aren’t in boxes or cans or packages.
Just eat real, whole, organic foods of the highest quality, local if possible. For grains, the non-gluten grains might be OK in moderation for some people, if properly prepared, after an elimination diet. If you eliminate all of the gluten-containing grains and limit the non-gluten ones, and still have problems, especially digestive problems, then eliminating all grains might be what you have to do. Remember that humans hardly ate any grains for most of our existence.
If you need your carb fix, stick with sweet potatoes, purple potatoes, yams, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, berries and other fruits and vegetables in their whole form. Add some cinnamon or other spices to them and increase their healing properties even more.
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